Yesterday at lunch I heard that a friend’s daughter’s fiancé has announced he does not want to have children. The person telling me this didn’t want me to say anything about it, and he quickly changed the subject. He was probably supposed to keep it a secret. And he probably didn’t understand why I got so angry.
Why does this happen so much? People keep writing to me about mates who won’t procreate. They share heartbreaking stories, and I don’t know how to comfort them. They ask whether they should leave and look for someone else to make babies with or stay and remain childless. Or will he/she maybe change their mind? They tell me about forced abortions and failed fertility treatments, about parents who complain about not having grandchildren, and about how awful they feel at baby showers and other child-centered events. I remember how I felt in my 30s and 40s. So hurt, so angry. Age has made it easier, but it still hurts. Just last week, I saw a young man down the street and realized I could have had a grandson that age, and oh God, I wanted so bad for it to be true.
I realized that my lunch companions knew nothing about my Childless by Marriage book or this blog. They knew I didn’t have kids, but they didn’t know why. They were both great-grandparents with pictures on their phones to show me. In their world, everyone has children, including people who probably shouldn’t.
I could see they were not following me, so I shut up, but I’m still angry. I have known this young engaged woman since she was little. She’s smart, beautiful, funny and loving. She lived with her fiancé a long time before he proposed marriage. She left her home and family to live on the other side of the U.S. with him. The wedding is soon. She has already made the arrangements, already bought her dress. Now he tells her he doesn’t want children? What is she supposed to do now? I want to throttle the guy. What right does he have to take motherhood away from her? I hope he changes his tune, but the fact that he said it will always be hanging out there. He’s not old, does not have kids from another marriage. So what’s the deal?
I hate that this keeps happening.
I’m telling a story that isn’t mine to tell, but I can’t help it. It’s just not fair.
I know you understand.
17 thoughts on “Another Man Drops the No-Kids Bomb”
That story makes me angry for her too! People should be upfront about life changing decisions like that. She could easily end up resenting him.
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Hi Sue … I have been reading the blog for a while but haven’t commented yet, I don’t think. I just wanted to say that the poor girl has a big decision to make now. I hope she is able to talk to someone that can help her sort through her feelings.
I agree that she has a big decision to make, but having been through a similar situation, I feel bad for her. She already agreed to marry him. She spent time, money and work in the relationship. She deserves to be happy. She loves him. In my opinion he is being cheap. He knows she cannot easily walk away and most likely will not. He is too selfish to give her everything, to do anything for her, which is what a marriage is supposed to be. He is too immature to realize the cost of losing out on a chance for a family. I think Sue should step in and seriously talk to him. Yes it would be nosy, yes it would be considered none of her business. But I wish an older lady had stepped in for my marriage at the opportune time. Let’s take a stand for family for once. All I ever hear about is it’s a woman’s right to choose, we shouldn’t judge people who don’t want kids, well what about the rest of us? We matter too and so does the young lady.
Maybe he thought he wanted children but has realised he was wrong, or that his feelings have changed. Maybe he was upfront about his feelings from the beginning but his fiancee chose to hope in spite of this. Maybe she was the one who changed her mind. It’s sad for both of them, but why vilify someone for wanting something different from what you want? He’s no more obligated to make an irreversible decision to do something he doesn’t want, than you are.
Well I definitely see your point, however, the whole institution of marriage was started in order to have a way of combining resources and to have a social unit called a family. So the way I see it, he wants the benefit of combined resources but doesn’t want the children that may come with it. Of course you are free to disagree with me and now that we live in a time when we can decide not to have kids, then why bother getting married at all? In my own view, I wanted both the marriage and the kids. And by the way, yes, having kids is irreversible. However eventually they grow up and leave the house so I also kind of disagree with you on that one as well. On a side note, I have an eight year old dog. I still have to take care of the dog the same way I did eight years ago, I pick up poop. I bath her. I feed her. If I had an 8-year-old child, I wouldn’t be handling feces anymore. Most likely, yes, there would be a lot of work involved still, but that child would be talking and doing lots of things that my dog will never do. So really why not have kids? They are little only a short while and I really do feel that some men and women today are just selfish and inconsiderate of their spouses’ hopes and dreams. That is what this blog is about.
The institution of marriage has meant a bunch of things at different times and in different societies – romantic love, child rearing, and as you say shared resources. Each couple, and individual within it, should get to define what that means for themselves. I doubt you’d be pleased if (for example) someone said you had to forfeit your right to own property, because that was part of what marriage meant for women in England a few hundred years ago!
Re pets – I have an animal in its twenties that requires at least as much care as you’ve described. For me, the tradeoff is worth it (I really like animals), whereas that of raising a child would not be. You feel differently, as is your right. I would never presume your feelings are ‘wrong’ or selfish because they don’t align with what I want for myself. There’s a difference between mourning a personal loss, and blaming or judging another person for not doing your bidding regardless of what they themselves love and value.
That said, I’m very sorry this has happened to you and I hope you find happiness.
Hi Sue, thank you so much for this blog. I’m 33 y.o. and currently in that same sad situation. My spouse and I have been together for 15 years, and three weeks ago, he has announced to me that he doesn’t want any children anymore (after almost 3 years of trying to get pregnant and an artificial insemination treatment that didn’t work). We agreed on couple therapy so I’m currently looking for a therapist, but I feel awful. I have to keep myself busy because I can’t think of anything else. I just purchased the book Life Without Baby and saw your name as I was about to start to read the book. I’m relieved to know that you wrote Childless by Marriage. That is absolutely the book that I was looking for. Is there an e-book version that I can buy online because I’m from Canada. Thanks again
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Lea, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Yes, Childless by Marriage is available through Amazon as an ebook. Let me know if you have trouble finding it.
[…] Last week’s post about my friend’s daughter’s fiancé suddenly announcing that he doesn’t want kids sparked a barrage of comments both at the blog and at the Childless by Marriage Facebook page. Some were sympathetic, some quite angry. How dare I suggest that that guy or anybody has to want children? He has a right to change his mind. He might have good reasons for feeling the way he does. I know. It’s all true. And it still sucks. In every situation like this, somebody is going to wind up brokenhearted. […]
I am in a similar situation, except my spouse waited until three months prior to our first wedding anniversary to let me know he does not want a child. Part of me felt for him; he was crying when he told me. It clearly had been beating him up and he felt horrible for not being honest with me. He claimed he thought his feelings would change, but they didn’t and he hated that he deceived me. I told him we didn’t have to make a decision that day and could talk about it more.
Fast forward two years, we’re still together, but the ‘I don’t want children’ confession weighs on me daily and I haven’t gotten the courage to talk to him about it for fear the answer will remain the same and I’ll have to make a decision about the future of our marriage. I’m in my mid-thirties, and time is running out. I have PCOS, so there is no guarantee that I would get pregnant even if I had a willing partner. So what do I do? Do I stay and never have the family I always wanted, or do I go and risk not finding someone, or finding someone and finding out that I can’t get pregnant. I think to myself that if we were physically unable to have children, if he was sterile, I would not leave him. It is what it is. However, knowing this decision is a choice he has made, I ask myself, don’t I have a choice in this too?
My best friend is pregnant. Actually she just let me know that her water has broken, so the baby will be here very soon. It took her over two years to get pregnant, and I should be happy for her. Her dreams have come true. I hate to admit it, and it’s taken me nine months of stalking your blog to get up the courage to say this, but I’m not excited about the idea of her having a baby. I realize I am a horrible, horrible person, but every time she talks about what bassinet to buy, or what size the baby is this week it takes everything in me to pretend I’m interested and happy for her. Then I go home and I cry. I sob, big ugly tears, and wonder what I did wrong in this life to end up with someone who doesn’t want to have a child with me. I recognize that I’m taking my anger and frustration out on her and it’s not fair, so I keep it bottled in. It’s an exiting time in her life and who am I to take that away from her by asking her not to talk about the one thing she’s wanted for so long, just because my husband is unwilling to give it to me? I see her every week, along with our other friend who already has children. It’s a long-standing tradition, we get together every week on a specific day. I used to look forward to going. It was my favorite day of the week. Now, I dread it. My friends have something in common now, and they talk and talk about motherhood and babies and raising families while I sit and listen, wishing that I could be part of the conversation rather than an outsider. Each week I drag my feet to get myself there, and by the time I arrive home I’m exhausted and drained. Now this baby is on its way, and I may be summoned to the hospital for support. I have no idea how I will get through it if I am. And then, the baby will be here and I’ll watch her in awe with her new family while I continue to spin in circles with no direction, trying to make a decision about my future.
Riley, I’m sorry you’re going through this. It’s so painful. You need to share your feelings with your husband. You don’t have to threaten to leave. But this is your problem together. Be honest with your friends about how hard it is, too. And try to share your friend’s pleasure in the new baby. Hang in there.
This happened to me. We have no children; I ensured I never got pregnant. I now kick myself for not asking my fella to have the snip. If he does not want kids, birth control is his responsibility. Ask your guy to take charge. I bet he refuses. My fella now regrets not having kids. ffs
I am currently in this situation. Our wedding is in 63 days and I recently told my fiancé I’m not sure if I won’t resent him (and his 3 kids from his previous marriage) for taking motherhood away from me. We’ve been together for three years, I’m 30, and while I understand where he’s coming from with not wanting more children since his are almost grown, I’m not sure the love I have for him is enough to fill the void of never having my own child. It’s more and more difficult to be around his kids when I can’t have a child of my own. It’s something we’re working through, and I’m still so confused on what the right answer is, but I called off the wedding for now. Your blog has really helped me to not feel like I’m alone or ‘crazy’
Oh Brooke, you’re not crazy or alone. It’s probably good that you have called off the wedding so you can work through the feelings you’re having. It’s such an important issue, and once you’re married, it’s a lot harder to do anything about it. I wish you all the best.
I know it’s a little old now but this post is completely ridiculous.
“What is she supposed to do now?”
Leave him. It’s not complicated. They disagree on a fundamental life decision. The timing is far from ideal but better to end it now than getting divorced later, or him having children he doesn’t want.
“I want to throttle the guy.”
Really? You want to throttle someone you seemingly have never met, over an issue you know almost nothing about? You have no idea what was actually said. For all you (and your friend) know, he made it clear from the start and his fiancee chose to ignore it. I see it all the time on forums; someone posts all weepy about “never getting to have a family” but admits that their partner told them they didn’t want children before they ever got married. They’ll add in some rationalization like “we had a miscommunication” or “I didn’t know he meant never” but we all know what really happens in most cases: he told her upfront that he never wanted children, she heard it loud and clear, and thought she could change him. That is 100% on her, no sympathy.
“What right does he have to take motherhood away from her?”
Thankfully he doesn’t, and that isn’t what’s happening. She can choose to leave him if she wants to be a mom that badly. Not sure why so many people infantilize women in relationships like this, that’s something else I see all the time. The woman wants marriage, children, etc. and her man is “dragging his feet” or whatever. Everyone talks about how he needs to step up, s*** or get off the pot, let her go… when all they should really be doing is telling her to leave him. Women are adults with their own agency, they shouldn’t be waiting for nor depending on a man’s actions. It’s pretty misogynistic really, and that’s coming from someone who is disgusted by much of modern-day feminism.
“He’s not old, does not have kids from another marriage. So what’s the deal?”
Maybe… he just doesn’t want kids? Like, you know that’s a thing right? Some people just don’t ever want to have children. I’m one of them. You aren’t, and I respect that. And you should similarly respect the choices of others.
I hope I haven’t offended any of you, and I can appreciate that you and many here have been through terrible emotional pain regarding having your own children… but that isn’t an excuse for posting nonsense like this.
There’s a lot of truth here, Aaron. Thank you for setting us straight. The young woman did leave the guy.
Aaron, I am going to repost your comment in today’s blog, so more people will get a chance to see it. I think a lot of people need to read what you wrote because it is so right on.